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Girls Names, Documenta, Third Man Theme - Radar, Belfast

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ATL | 16:19 UK time, Monday, 2 April 2012


Girls Names, Documenta, Third Man Theme
Radar: Mandela Hall
Thursday, 29th March 2012

With the somewhat soul-destroying prospect of Boyzone's Keith Duffy and someone from The Only Way Is Essex judging QUB's Got Talent downstairs, three of the country's more sonically progressive bands form what is easily the finest Radar line-up in some time. But, out of everything, what makes tonight such a thoroughly unmissable proposition is the fact it’s not only Belfast gloom pop band Girls Names' first gig of the year, it’s their first show as a four-piece. And yet the question remains: how well will such unfamiliar territory pan out for Cathal Cully’s band live?

Late addition to the bill, Kraut-pop three-piece Third Man Theme get proceedings under way in characteristically dogged form via opener, ‘The Road’. From this track, right through a further five brilliantly inspired songs of veering synth and attacking guitar noise, frontman Matthew Rodger’s severe temper on ‘Hepworth and Hapaska’ and highlights including the bobbing chant of “I walk up the road and I feel it rising” on ‘Tears on Tate’ and Brian Farquhar’s remarkable drumming on closer ‘Round Pound’ expose exactly what this trio are about: highly-imaginative, supremely unorthodox pop noise, taking in loose, energetic and well-constructed interplay.

With less the standard undergrad and more a “reliably-informed” muso crowd congregating, drone-pop seven-piece Documenta summon in a more spectral atmosphere with their unravelling, typically two/three chord Kosmiche music. Placed somewhere between the spacey sounds of Fuxa, Yo La Tengo, and Neu!, Joe Greene and co. wield their powers best on ‘Spanish Artist’, the subtly ecstatic 'Everything's Alright Forever', and a new, Motorik-driven track (“about a gypsy lord from Lurgan”), ‘Gentle’s Yard’. Courtesy of four guitars, Greene and Roisin Stewart’s dual vocals and their cyclical take on textural density and structural minimalism, we witness once again Documenta achieving a live aesthetic in ways other bands of their ilk can only dream. Indeed, despite summoning sounds suggestive of progressive pastures further afield, the loyal chants of "one more tune" after their set remind us — proudly for that matter— precisely where we are.

But, before they set off to UK and Europe in May ahead of their appearance at this year’s Primavera festival in Barcelona, Girls Names expectedly emerge to the biggest reception of the night with new addition Philip Quinn aka Charles Hurts on both synth and guitar. Expedient, then, that the band perform only one track from their critically-devoured Dead To Me album tonight, their ten-song set a seemingly perfect opportunity to test the waters for new material including ‘Drawing Lines’, first-rate closer ‘The New Life’ and new single, ‘A Troubled See’.

Without question, these tracks possess a certain complexity previously lacking from the band’s live set-up — an intricacy clearly owing to Quinn’s presence, ultimately speaking volumes for what to expect second full-length album. But, as has become their reputation, Girls Names’ magnificently mournful and yet subliminally starry-eyed indie-pop is mainly propelled by Claire Miskimmin’s solid bass work and Cathal Cully’s shuddering vocals and jangling chords throughout to prove that, whilst far from the most attended Radar to date, wider appeal does not necessarily equate to being given the cold shoulder at home. 

Brian Coney


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